Interactions in the Augmented Age

As organizational consultants, we spend a great deal of time working with leaders and teams to be cohesive, courageous and clear in their interactions and high performing as individuals and a collective. How will that change in the very near future when our closest work colleagues are AI, sentient robots with intuitive capability?  Will we need more or less of collaborative skills that make teams function? 

http://www.ted.com/talks/maurice_conti_the_incredible_inventions_of_intuitive_ai

8 Steps for Transforming Conflict into Collaboration

Why is conflict so hard for us, why IS it such a big deal?  We mostly agree it is part of life, but why do we layer it with such avoidance, such drama?

A big reason we make conflict so hard is that we have it when shouldn’t, and we don’t have it when we should! Why, oh why, do we so readily slide into conflict with our in-laws, but are loathe to raise conflict with our teenaged children when we suspect them of something dangerous, ill-willed or premature?

It is easier to engage in conflict with people and issues that we can readily hold at arm’s length, and harder with the people closest and most important to us.  While this may be true, it is no excuse to avoid getting in there and working things through, however awkward and awful it feels, with the people we love and the concerns most important to us.

And that’s the easy part to fix!

Our relationship with conflict gets more complicated as we delve into the individual, inconsistent, unpredictable, and culturally laden patterns about how we engage conflict. Some of these are hard-wired, some are environmental, others are situations and some are just force of habit.

Women and men have different neurophysiological patterns of conflict engagement, and resolution- that’s worth at least a million arguments alone!  On top of that, how we were raised, early life messages about anger, about expressing emotion and how we developed our early self-concept, most importantly, how we interacted with or siblings!

Now add our situational patterns of conflict: big family events (e.g., weddings, funerals and holidays), when we’re tired, hungry, feeling unappreciated, just lost a client or gained 5 pounds, it impacts how, when and why we engage in conflict!

So, we agree, conflict is a complex and multi-faceted thing.  Perhaps that answers the initial question about why we layer so much onto it!

If we also agree that we have 100% control over how we engage conflict, then we are capable of using it as a tool for improvement, opportunity- even collaboration!

We all know of times when we fully engaged in a conflict and came out in a more positive place than we could ever have landed without it.  When conflict led to more creative results- or a breakthrough that literally blew out of all of the committed, focused energy and passion!  What have we missed, at work, and at home by avoiding conflict?

8 Steps for Transforming Conflict into Collaboration

  1.   Move quickly into conflict.

Don’t let it fester, then blow your stack.  This invariably leads to bells you cannot un-ring, words you cannot take back.

  1.   Adopt a position of extreme listening.

Hearing on as many levels as you can, and making sure you are fundamentally clear on the other person’s position is essential. Slow down and check, ‘this is what I am hearing you say.’

  1.   Stay committed to a shared vision or outcome.

Even when you feel irritated, and want to stomp your feet and yell “objection!” What’s the anticipated outcome? What shared investment, hope or aspiration do you both have?

  1.   Be relentlessly positive!

It is difficult to engage in ugly conflict with Mary Poppins. Be positive, if nothing else, it will unlock the other person’s conflict patterns, and require them to experiment with new ways of interacting with you.

  1.   Use your funny!  

We don’t think of using humor in conflict, because we are often too mad to find our funny.  But, it’s there.  Fund your funny and use it to disarm conflict patterns for both of you!

  1.   Breathe! Move! Walk around!

Sometimes physical movement helps us feel ‘unstuck’ from our position, from our worries or fears- and sometimes it helps us see a new perspective- to literally ‘move forward.’

  1.   Moderate your talker.

In the midst of conflict is not a good time to yammer on just to hear yourself talk.  In fact, less is more.  If your are both listening more than talking, there’s a good chance the outcome will be a positive one, at least we know the reverse is true!

  1.   Celebrate your success!

When you stay with a conflict through to its end, and find yourselves in a better place, celebrate!  Talk about what being in the conflict was like, and how you might engage in it differently next time. Appreciate the willingness to engage and the strengthening of partnership that results.

Lean into conflict, make it your friend, your ally. Let it teach you that true collaboration is borne of hard work, some sweat and the willingness to BE present and engaged with others in real and meaningful ways.  Without conflict, that kind of meaning can be elusive, momentary.  

3 Ways To Improve Your Presentations

1. Invite the audience to join and shape your presentation.

It’s one thing to prepare and deliver a one-way presentation, and there are times when that is exactly what’s called for (Eg., TED talks). However, most business presentations call for us to be responsive to the needs and responses of our audience. Watch, listen and ask people for real-time feedback if engagement seems low, and follow their behavioral cues to deliver the kind of presentation that has he power to engage, and even transform your audience.

2. Make friends with your nerves. 

What happens when we fight our nervous energy? It typically wins and we end up with more, not less, of it! I have a friend who talks about nervousness as ‘energy waiting to be committed.’ In this framework, anxiety represents our passion, our commitment to doing well, and the genuine hope that all will go well and the audience (or customer) will be thrilled with our performance.

3. Be You.

There is a reason YOU are presenting! Maybe you are the expert or you tell a great story and know how to inspire people, whatever it is, YOU are the presenter. Over the years, we’ve seen hundreds of people lose their energy and character the minute they step behind a podium. Take a deep breath and push that podium aside! Use your humor, your authenticity, your endearing social awkwardness, smarts, joy- whatever it is that is the mark of who you are- use it to connect with and serve your audience.

Ready to take your Presentation Skills to the next level? 

Sign up for Presentation Skills Intensive. We’ve taken the best of improvisational theater, speech and language pathology and good business practice to create an amazing day of experiential learning.

Dear Teen-aged Kids

Dear Teen-Aged Kids,

I have always told you that some things in our lives as a family will change, and some things will stay the same.  The one thing that will always be same, (all together now…) is that we love you, and feel blessed to be your parents every day of your, and our, lives.

Then what’s changing, you ask?

You.

You are changing, and growing up.  There have been moments when we thought this might never happen, and times it felt like it has happened all too fast.  But happen it has.  So, some basic rules have changed in our home now, let’s review together so we are all clear.

  1. You are responsible for your own crap. I don’t know where your cleats are, and if you leave your laundry basket next to the washer, the only thing that will happen to it (besides the continued molding of your sweaty clothes) is that I will steal your sweatpants, because they are way comfier than mine.
  2. Want money?  Get a job. That’s how people get money in the big world, where there is no such thing as ‘allowance.’ So ask me for extra chores, mow some lawns or paint fences, but don’t think I’m going to give you money every time you shovel snow from your own driveway, or vacuum the house through which you walk in muddy shoes.  You live here, we feed you, educate and house you, so pony up on the chores, just because you can.  Hold out your (even metaphorical) hand after begrudgingly raking a leaf or two, and expect us to slap a rental invoice into it. Do whatever chores are asked of you, anticipate a few, and your life will be happy and bright.
  3. Get up in the morning on your own.  You know already that I will be super happy to see you, and love to make breakfast for you if there’s time, mostly just to get a few moments to chat with you before the day begins. This does not mean I want to be the one to wake you up, because I don’t. So set your own alarm, and don’t let it go off for 40 minutes straight, because that makes my happy morning squirrel mood turn into angry grizzly mean mommy mood. And please pick an alarm tone that is tolerable to the human ear, as in NOT the ‘meow meow meow’ Purina Cat Chow theme song.
  4. I am sorry you are sick, and will always do my best to take care of you.  Yet, I no longer need you to tell me before you are going to vomit.  This is especially true when you are in your bedroom at the other end of the hall next to your own bathroom, and you make the high risk, dicey trip to my bedroom to tell me something that cannot stop, nor delay the inevitable. In fact, it only increases the chances of you vomiting in my bedroom, effectively trapping me in there to clean my way out.

Commit this to your brain, tattoo it on the back of your hand, if necessary:

If you have even the tiniest hint you might vomit, RUN directly to your own bathroom and lean in full part over the toilet, as if your life depends on your accuracy.  Do not pass GO, do not collect ME- just go!  I will hear you, trust me, and will come with my maternal sympathy noises and cold, damp washcloth.

  1. And while we are on this, do not wake me up during the night to tell me that you cannot sleep.  Because then (just doing the math) we will both be awake, one of us unnecessarily and PS, she will be mad.  When should you wake me up during the night? Good question.

Let’s review together: The house is on fire.

Really, it’s THAT short of a list.

Here’s why:  Once you wake me up, I cannot go back to sleep.  Somehow waking me up and gathering my sympathy lulls you into dreamville in about 3 nanoseconds, while I lay there in wide eyed pre-squirrel anticipation of the day until … the day arrives.  This is because I woke up with you a quadra-ba-jillion times as a baby, enough that I am effectively programmed not to sleep through anything.  Like the butterfly wing-flap effect, when a baby cries in Papua New Guinea, I wake up in Troy, New York.  It has taken me nearly 20 years to be able to sustain even a tiny momentum of nano-sleep, so please don’t mess with it.

Not that my sleep is any more important than yours just because I have to get up and work to pay the bills and put food in your collection of bottom-less pitted bellies, while you while away the hours watching Spongebob and making a moderate attempt at succeeding in high school.  But it is more important, so treat my sleep like a precious gem, or like your airsoft gun, or even the really nice car you could have someday if you added a even a pinch more effort to your recipe for adult success.

There. Are we clear? At least I feel better.

Love, Mom

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Not. Me.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

Apparently my husband and children, that’s who.

And Spongebob Squarepants.

If you thought I didn’t understand ‘the Cougar thing,’ you can only imagine where I land on this one.

For those of you who don’t know, Spongebob is a cartoon sponge, like a kitchen sponge. Sort of. When I fact checked this with one son, he was dangerously close to chastising me: “No! He’s asponge– all sponges are from the sea except spongecake which is totally different.” I imagine his IQ rolling backwards with every episode, like an old fashioned odometer, or those Kmart ‘roll back’ signs.

Spongebob has a job at the Krusty Krab as a fry cook. His best friend is Patrick, a starfish, and Spongebob serves as the nemesis of the sarcastic, and somewhat mean Squidward (who also works at the Krusty Krab).

I fought Spongebob’s presence in my home for years. I cringed at the sound of the theme song (which I can sing in Hebrew, incidentally. Don’t ask.) His voice? I’d take nails on a chalkboard any day.

Then I remembered the best way of ‘helping’ my kids like something less, is for me to like it more! When they got addicted to “Trivia Crack,” I joined. Crickets.

When they played Danza Kuduro constantly for a week, I downloaded and played it twice while making dinner and dancing to it, and I never heard it again. Ever.

Not even on the radio.

And, my secret weapon: when they are arguing on a car trip of any length, I start talking in a loud voice about human reproduction and I am guaranteed silence, it may be a horrified silence, but it’s still a quiet silence, and that’s all that matters. I can get two good hours of ‘frozen man’ quality silence from the mere mention of the human menstrual cycle.

I know what works, I just need to use it! Watch out Spongebob… here comes mama!!!

Spongebob- drawn by my son, Jamison. :-)

Spongebob- drawn by my son, Jamison.

“Hey! Mom’s watching Spongebob! BEST DAY EVER!!!!

Uh oh… not what I anticipated.

“Wait, you have to see the one where the writer of Spongebob drops his pencil and Spongebob makes another Spongebob and they fight and he says, ‘where’s the leak, ma’am’ and the wrench lands on his head!!!’”

The hilarity is building. Now they’re talking and laughing over each other which is not uncommon, “Remember when the aliens invaded Bikini Bottom and if mayonnaise touched them, they melted??!! And when Spongebob got the submarine and was delivering mobile Krusty Krab krabby patties, but burned them, and Plankton was trying to sell chum and people were mad at Plankton and they sold the burned krabby patties to throw at Plankton? And…” (they are literally unglued with laughter), “when Patrick says ‘Whoever is the owner of the white sedan, you left your lights on’ (with a tuba on his head)…”

I am defeated.

I ask, “Why? WHY do you like this annoying whiney Spongebob character so much? And how did Mr. Krabbs, a crab, father Pearl the WHALE?” Just saying that makes me uncomfortable.

One son, apparently spending all of the big words he’s been saving this academic year, replies, “Spongebob represents the whimsical nature of children and the joy they take in creative fantasy.”

I look at him accusingly over the rim of my reading glasses, and he bursts out laughing.

“You look like Squidward when you’re mad.” The look on my face makes him laugh harder and he says, “Don’t be a Krabby Patty!”

My husband, Jon says, “It’s classic comedy—there’s the idiot, the idiot’s friend and the sane guy who has to deal with them. That’s me. I’m that sane guy.” I am staring at him blankly, pretty much confirming his point.

“I love Patrick because he is stupid and hilarious,” says another son. I catch myself daydreaming about the separate entrance we’ll need to the basement apartment of our home, where I am convinced this son will live out the rest of his days with some (idiot) friends.

Resigned, I realize that this is what they will remember of their childhoods. Not the vacations we saved for, or the trips to the Guggenheim and times we played Apples to Apples as a family and the creative Passover seders, or when Jon read them the ENTIRE Harry Potter series at bedtime over a course of two full years… they’re going to remember the episodes of Spongebob they watched together.

And I just need to get over it.

Because even though I don’t get it, they do. If Spongebob is this much fun for them to just talkabout, I’ll do us all a favor and stay far enough away from him that it stays that way.

Are you on Twitter? Join the conversation! @CoreyJamisonLLC

This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.